Monday, December 31, 2012

Dec 31, 2012 Taking it easy to Valcarlos

After a mostly restful night at the municipal albergue in St. Jean we said goodbye to Madame Jenine, our hospitalera, and walked out into a chilly, partly cloudy, morning. Our number has grown by one with the addition of Harry, a young software engineer from Korea. One thing of note is the increased numbers of winter pilgrims. Antoine, at the pilgrim office, showed us his ledger. The pages for the previous two days were full (maybe 15 entries per page). But for today it is just the three of us. Robin and I headed for the post office and Harry headed out of town. We all are walking the valley route. Antoine emphasized taking the valley route and accordingly placed red x's all along the Route Napoleon on the route map he gave us. We got the point. We walked through the Port d'Espagne about 9:30 and after a moment to contemplate our journey, tighten our packs, and hug one another, we set out. Our second Camino was officially underway.
Harry and Robin

The day was perfect for walking. The temperature at departure was close to 40 F and the weather was dry. It always takes time to adjust to carrying our packs regardless of how much training we do. This trip was no different. The packs carried well, but the weight was there nonetheless. 7-10 days from now we will not even be thinking about them but for now it is time to get reacquainted. We enjoyed the climb but I must admit that two more years on my body (since our last Camino) have surfaced a few new aches and pains. The Advil is at the ready. We arrived a Valcarlos about 1:00, got the pass code for the albergue door at a local bar, had a couple of beers and headed for the shower. We have rejoined with Harry at the albergue and are currently having some soup to hold us until dinner. Robin is making pasta tonight from what we could cobble together from the local store. I am not sure what sort of New Year's celebration to expect here in Valcarlos, but whatever it is it is unlikely we will hear the stroke of midnight. Colder temps expected tomorrow. At one point today, as the sun found a chink in the cloud cover, the temperature climbed into the upper 50's (too hot for this crew). All is well on Day1. Happy new year to all.


Dec 29 2012 Heading to Pamplona

Our day began at 6:00 this morning to allow plenty of time to close up the house and make it to PDX for a 1:30 pm flight to Amsterdam which connected to a KLM flight to Madrid. The connection was about an hour and we were concerned it might not be enough time. As luck would have it we made it just fine and arrived in Madrid to find our pack duffel waiting on the carousel. Always a very nice feeling. We picked up a cab about 1:15 pm and arrived at Atocha station about 20 minutes later to catch our 3:05 pm train to Pamplona. Getting a non stop from PDX to Amsterdam was great. This removed about 5 hours of flying time. Our travel day has been going remarkably well. Thank God.

Atocha Station, Madrid
We are now enjoying dinner and a glass of wine in the Preferente coach of the high speed Ave train. We are expectedly tired as we have not slept since our day began in Vancouver over 24 hours ago. But our spirits are high now that the bulk of the traveling is done. Pamplona lies to the NE, just 3.5 hours away. We have booked into the Europa hotel in Pamplona for one night. We will go to mass on Sunday and then look for a cab to take us to St. Jean where the work and the fun begins. No more slacking, time to start pilgriming. We are still planning for a 12/31 departure from St. Jean. More later.

Pilgrim kit for two in that bag

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Pilgrim Prayer

While I was packing the other day, I found a small rock in my backpack. I remembered that I picked this up a few weeks ago at Tidewater Cove, the turn-around point for our usual 10 mile walk. It was a clear day. John and I took off our backpacks to rest for a few minutes before heading back home. I decided to look for a rock to bring with me as an offering at Cruz del Ferro (the Iron Cross which is the highest point on the Camino). So I was looking at this small, pinkish rock and decided that I will write a short prayer, wrap it around the rock and store it in my backpack. But, as soon as I sat down in front of my laptop, immediately a surge of emotions came over me and I started to weep. I couldn't continue so I sat there until it subsided.

I always knew that I had this longing in my heart for the Unknown, God, something much more than this life, some being who knows all and accepts all. But I was surprised how this longing visits me when I least expect it, and with every opportunity it can seize. I guess this is the reason why I walk the Camino. I offer myself to myself by leaving the comfort of my own home, all the amenities that I have acquired to make my life easier, and step into a place where I am rather 'vulnerable'. In that place I no longer own more than my backpack. I even leave behind those carefully crafted stories of mine. I am willing to experience the freedom that comes from not knowing.

I did manage to write a short prayer....

"Lord, I have come here, once again, to Cruz del Ferro. I have come to lay down, all that is not me, and reclaim all that You have bestowed within me. May this prayer guide me onward from this point and throughout my life. For I desire to be love, joy, happiness and be ever closer to You. Amen."


Companions on the journey

Every Camino is a gift and a blessing. Robin and I try to remain mindful of this throughout the journey. There is a wonderful Catholic song that I hear occasionally at mass called The Servant's Song. The words always strike me as appropriate as we prepare for pilgrimage. "We are pilgrims on a journey, we are travelers on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load."  Those words speak not just to the rigors of the road ahead, but also remind us of the importance of walking with humbleness and charity as our own personal Camino companions. This journey is long and complex enough to ensure we will need the help of others, at some point, for something. Being open to, and thankful for, the charity and kindness of strangers can, oddly enough, sometimes fall outside our comfort zone. Some might see an offer of help as an unpleasant reminder of a personal failure of some sort (inadequate planning, lack of foresight, who knows what). It is essential to approach the Camino free from those kinds of recriminations. Shedding the burden of self importance gifts us with a transcending grace that allows us to find joy both in receiving help from, and giving help to, those who unexpectedly enter our lives.

We walk by faith, not by sight, trying to be free from that all too human need to be in control of everything. The need to be masters of our destiny (good luck with that) is just one of many superfluous burdens we willingly leave behind. Externally, successfully walking the Camino requires careful attention to the weight of one's pack. Internally, that same accounting holds true for those many other burdens that can (and usually do) impede one's progress. The Camino teaches us about minimalism, about how to discern wants from needs. When we make poor choices our bodies suffer under an unnecessary physical burden. At all times, not just on the Camino, we have the opportunity to review the things we choose to "carry" and assess their burden. A wise person quickly learns what has value and what must be left behind. As we all walk our own pilgrim journeys we hopefully discover that the quality of our peace is actually measured in the quantity of unfulfilling wants left scattered behind us.

Less than two days to departure.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Packing day

Today our schedule was pretty much cleared so Robin and I decided to get an early start on packing our Camino gear. We are leaving next Friday, but  what the heck its just one less thing to do as Christmas approaches. As you can see we made it. Both packs weigh around 18 pounds. A good portion of that weight is the pack itself  (about 5 pounds). That is a bit on the heavy side for a Camino pack, but it includes the front pouches, which are very handy, and waterproof liners for both the pack and the pouches.

We are using the Aarn Peak Aspiration model which delivers about 40L in the main pack and 12L for the front pouches (combined). We are not carrying a lot of gear, but as you can see the packs are pretty full. I don't think we could get by with a 30L pack that many use at other times of the year. Part of the weight comes from a small camera, and an iPad mini (for blogging). Those two items with the cases, and cables add close to two pounds. The test for me is how the pack carries. Our experience with this pack system has been very positive. We carried basically the same weight last Camino (2010), and had no problems. These packs are very comfortable in this weight range (my only experience), but I believe they would also do quite well with weights up into the 35-40 pound range for through hiking. They have an internal aluminum frame that is light, but not ultra light. The frame transfers the weight effectively to the hip belt. We never feel any shoulder pain, and the hip belt is quite comfortable. Our kit rounds out with Pacer poles, Salomon boots for me (nice wide toe box), and a pair of Merrell mids for Robin. Both pairs of boots are Gore Tex lined.

We always are concerned about lost or delayed baggage, but have decided to accept potential delays for the convenience of checking our gear. We use an inexpensive REI pack duffel that holds everything in the top photo with just a pinch of room left over. The duffel, loaded out, weighs 45 pounds (packs, boots, poles, and clothing we will walk in). We will carry two small daypacks on the plane. These we will mail to Santiago once we get to St. Jean. So with the exception of a few small items related to walking away from our home for 7 weeks we are ready to go. Yes!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Into the Silence

As our departure for the Camino draws ever closer, I am drawn to thoughts of solitude and silence and the gift of this respite. It is rare indeed when we allow ourselves to hit the pause button and interrupt our busy lives, and just reflect. I have come to realize just how much of my past life has been lived in a state of hyper activity where silence was shunned, perhaps even feared. When we are convinced that all manner of good things emanate from our ability to control our lives through hard work, knowledge, good judgement, and commitment to following an upward path to success, our peace is at greatest risk. It is the overwhelming sense of our own greatness (self-importance) that blinds our way forward, and locks away the humbleness so necessary for spiritual growth. There is nothing in this material world that has permanence either in substance or in its ability to please and pleasure us. Yet, we remain in thrall with its glitter, mesmerized by the siren's song of mind numbing sales pitches that pound our ears and crush our souls. We remain defenseless until we reach that point where the search for truth turns us away from these ever present distractions and towards the light of God's peace.

I continue to read Thomas Merton, and find his guidance to be an invaluable companion on my journey of faith. In his book, No Man is an Island, he illuminates the path to peace which is awakening to God's love, and loving God in return.

He tells us, "If our lives are poured out in useless words we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence." 

"There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he has ever prayed: when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom; distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of the hill."

"In silence we learn to make distinctions. Those who flee silence, flee also from distinctions. They do not want to see too clearly. They prefer confusion."

"A man who loves God...avoids the unending movement that blurs all beings together into a crowd of indistinguishable things."

"Those who do not know there is another life after this one resist fruitful silence...Even when their own tongues are still, their minds chatter without end and without meaning, or they plunge themselves into the protective noise of machines..."

"How tragic it is that they who have nothing to express are continually expressing themselves, like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark, where there is no enemy."

"If the spirit that kept the flame of physical life burning in our bodies took care to nourish itself with the oil that is found only in the silence of God's charity, then when the body dies, the spirit itself goes on burning the same oil, with its own flame. But if the spirit has burned all along with the base oils of passion, or egoism, or pride, then when death comes the flame of the spirit goes out with the light of the body because there is no more oil in the lamp."

"If at the moment of our death, death comes as an unwelcome stranger, it will be because Christ also has been an unwelcome stranger."

Embracing the solitude of a Camino, and using that to offer our love to God is always a compelling part of being on pilgrimage. Any journey can offer the allure of excitement, but the essence of our pilgrimage is not to be found in the charms of the physical world, as pleasant and intriguing as they might be.

We shall walk, as we live, in the hope and joy of God's grace and mercy, ever thankful for the gift of being called to do so. Oh, and BTW, we plan a hell of a lot of fun as well.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pilgrimage Pose

So I was in my yoga class and at one point our teacher prompted us to go into the Child's pose so we went. I saw my fellow students gathering a few props, knowing that we will be in this pose for a good 5 minutes or so, we all wanted to make sure we can give (everything) into the floor. About a minute into the pose our teacher tells us that this pose is also known for a pilgrimage pose; tightly folded body resembling a fetus in the womb, journeying back to where we came from, slowly counting our own breathing to fend off temptations from the ever fleeing mind. I was struck with awe about the timing of hearing this, and the invitation for me to once again, remind myself that our upcoming 2nd pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago has indeed, very little to do with physical experience but everything to do with inner awakening if we seek it. We have a guidebook, we have a wealth of information about the terrain we will be walking, the weather and places to stay..... But, in truth, we will be walking what Meister Eckhart called "a way-less way", the inner journey. This is not about counting mileposts, but exploring the inner landscape. I suddenly remembered a verse from John's Gospel; "My sheep know my voice. I know them and they follow me." (John 10:27)

So, there I was, my head deeply bowed to the earth, shoulders heavily draped from my spine and onto  profoundly folded knees, my hands resting alongside my feet, and I was silently weeping.
Will I? Will I be able to hear you, Lord? In the winds of Meseta, in the refuge of a deserted hermitage, in the chant of a wind driven stand of Eucalyptus trees, in the sound of church bells from a distant village, and perhaps in the sound of my own breathing and foot steps, will I have inner ears to hear Your Voice, O Lord?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Robin on a late afternoon training walk
Robin and I have purchased our air tickets and made all other travel arrangements to get from Vancouver, WA, to St. Jean Pied de Port by Dec 30th. God willing we will start our second trip down the Camino Frances on Dec 31st. We have been preparing for this upcoming Camino since the day we returned from our first one, two years ago. In those many months in between much has transpired that has made us ever more aware of our call to, and appreciation of, the Camino. Suffice it to say this is where we want to be. This is where we need to be. As for the rest that is in God's hands. For our part, we have stayed in shape, reassessed our gear, avoided the burden of expectations, and made promises to be better pilgrims in all that that means. 

A stretch at Tidewater Cove, Columbia River

The simple bliss of going on pilgrimage overshadows all the conjured images of problems trying in vain to gain traction in our minds. No travelers anywhere are sheltered from adversity, but we have come to believe that although pain (adversity, discomfort, etc.) may be present suffering is optional. It is our hope, and intention, to practice this as we inch our way westward through the wintery landscape. As always, it is the understanding of the unique opportunity found in this journey that cautions us to be worthy travelers ready to compassionately share the pilgrim road, with its bounty and its bumps, with all fellow pilgrims that we encounter. The blessing of this growing pilgrim community is a shared willingness to embrace, encourage, comfort, and support all those encountered as we continue the journey. Each of us has a special role to play to make this happen. The challenge is to move along the Camino (and make our way through life) in such a manner that our inherent selfishness does not prevent us from recognizing and responding to the needs of others. I find that walking with a humble heart, open to God's grace, helps that process along nicely. But, hey, that's just me. Or, is that you, too?

Fall foliage along our walking route

Lengthening shadows at Fort Vancouver Park

A chilly (but dry) afternoon upper 40's 

Columbia River Interstate 5 crossing between Washington and Oregon

Camino thoughts 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Road Ahead

St. Jean Pied de Port
The Pilgrim spirit remains our constant companion. Each day echoes of footfalls past join with the footfalls of our daily local walks as we joyfully recall our time on the Camino Frances. We find ourselves being nourished both in body, and spirit during these regular periods of quiet reflection and physical exertion, and are pleasantly surprised at the many Camino moments that find their way into our thoughts. If there were such a thing as a happiness meter, that could be rigged to read Camino emotion, then surely (for us) it would always be spinning the dial. The hunger to walk the Camino again has become a palpable thing that transcends a simple yearning to revisit a pleasant experience. In fact, the past two years since our departure from the Camino have proven to be a remarkable extended pilgrimage as the Spirit continues to strengthen our faith, and guide our life's journey. A little added bonus, one might say, that just surprises and amazes us.

As I reflect on this blessing a passage from Isaiah (God's poet) comes to mind, "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths...come let us walk in the light of the Lord." It is just this sense of climbing God's holy mountain to learn his ways, and discover his paths that fuels our pilgrim journey. We are urged forward, warmly cloaked with a comforting sense of peace and purpose, ready for the road ahead that now is leading us back to France where this all began (or did it).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Death in Tehran

I recently was reminded of just how precarious life is. I was walking past a local airfield enjoying the clear, cool afternoon as I was finishing a 5 mile walk (trying to stay Camino ready). I heard the engine noise from a small plane, and looked up to see a red single engine plane, about 200 feet above the runway, climbing out of the field. I thought what a wonderful day to be in the air. Immediately the engine faltered, the plane went into a steep right hand bank, the nose of the plane fell towards the ground, and seconds later the abrupt, but surprisingly quiet, impact killed one of the two occupants.

Just a few days later my wife Robin and I were walking, once again, near the aforementioned airfield and heard the crunch of sheet metal from the roadway nearby. We ran up to the verge and looked down at a small SUV rolled over on its roof with the front end perched atop a short retaining wall. The motorists nearby already had the driver, a middle aged woman, out of the car and were treating what appeared, thankfully, to be minor injuries. 

Life is indeed precarious. In both of these stories the people began their day probably expecting it to be just like any other day. Why not? The unforeseeable is always possible but most of us choose not to give it even a passing thought. We know that unexpected and tragic things occur daily to a lot of people. However, as we are unable to forecast these things we just believe they are unlikely to happen to us by virtue of being responsible and prudent people. But, in truth we never know the day or the hour when the unexpected might overtake us. This brings me back to thoughts of present and future, and how foolish it seems to be heavily invested in the future when we only have today to deal with. Tomorrow will sort itself out if and when it comes, and hopefully it will.  But, for now finding peace with the time that we have should be sufficient. Yes, it takes a bit of work to get one's mind refocussed on the present, but the freedom from anxiety is amazing once you master this simpler approach to life. After all, what actually do we accomplish by exercising our fear. Nothing but allowing it to grow stronger and more debilitating. 

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Tehran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death. (Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Pilgrim Road

I have, lately (and yet again), been mightily distracted from this blog (my apologies) but perhaps it is just as well as the interlude has allowed me more time to think about our recent trip to Israel and what we learned from it. In our pre-Camino days travel was all about notching up experiences. I don't suppose there is anything wrong with that, but recently that mindset seems to leave us unsatisfied. Something just doesn't add up. It is interesting that as one gets older, and there is more of life behind than ahead, how a look backward can provide both clarity and wonder. It is from this look back, over many years, that a life path emerges. This at once interesting, but also somewhat unsettling as one tries to understand why one choice was favored over another.
Tomb of Jesus, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

At first I thought who could know, but the more I considered it I saw how all the events of my life were woven together. This growing belief that everything happened for a purpose would have left me in a muddle had it not been for recent journeys to Spain and Israel. Maybe it started to sink in as Robin and I walked the Camino de Santiago, with its quietude, and time to reflect on our faith, and pray. Perhaps, our recent trip to the Holy Land, following the life of Jesus and his ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem, helped tie things together. But, in the end, I could see, or more truthfully feel, a clarity of purpose starting to form. I realized I was not alone (and had never been). My life, and Robin's, were uniquely purposed to fulfill a baptismal promise of God's love. We would always be with Him, and He would always be with us despite, in my case, decades of denial.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
Welcome to Bethlehem
While we were in Israel we had the benefit of getting to know two extraordinary Palestinian Catholic guides, Rimon and Raouf. These men gave daily testament to their faith, not by being preachy, but rather by simply demonstrating a stunning equanimity driven by total faith in God. They, their families, and the Palestinian people have seen, and experienced, much suffering, but their faith remains unshaken. Their faith both catalyzes, and comforts them as they rise each day to greet a future rife with danger and uncertainty. It was amazing how much these two, seemingly ordinary people, affected Robin and I. We became very accustomed to watching their faith (our faith) being pushed to the forefront rather than the more usual experience of relegating faith to the rear (and be quiet about it). You don't want to offend anyone, right? Wrong! It now seems that Robin and I were led to the Holy Land not just to roll up and down the countryside gawking at landmarks, but rather to intersect with the lives of two strangers. I know that sounds strange (we had similar experiences on the Camino), but I believe we came to bear witness to the true faith of these two humble Palestinians, to gather strength and resolve for the journey ahead. Thank you, Rimon. Thank you, Raouf. All the subsequent places visited, all the holy sites seen, were wonderful experiences that brought us more intimately into the life of, and love for Jesus, but nothing compared to the invitation of those days in Bethlehem, Bethany, and Jerusalem, where the world always seems off balance, to witness, firsthand, the transforming power of God's love. The Pilgrim Road continues to provide. Who would have believed it.

Peace be with you

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where to begin

Haifa, first night in Israel
I have been trying to find the right starting point for my reflections on our recent trip to Israel. I have so many conflicting emotions that at once I want to rant and then just as quickly I want to rave. The Holy Land is simply that kind of place. At one moment you think you understand the way things work, and then you realize you don't have a clue. It is this constant uncertainty of people and place that electrifies the air creating a crackle of tension that affects everyone. You can convince yourself that you are simply a tourist/pilgrim and all is well. No worries. The local "problems" are for some other unfortunate's account. But, just as quickly that comfort evaporates when your bus is halted at a checkpoint and a young man/woman boards to check everyone out, clearly profiling according to some protocol. I guess it seems akin to any tension filled moment, anywhere in the world, when you sense trouble could suddenly erupt. That is as a close as I can get to what it feels like when traveling in Israel. The country is always on heightened alert. No attempt is made to hide it. In reality, this is probably exactly what the Israeli government wants to convey. I am not being critical of this, just noting it. The origins of the conflict and tension, are another matter. These subjects have and will continue to fill books long after we all are long gone.

But, shifting back to my pilgrim mode I have to confess that this trip was remarkable in what it accomplished. The ability to physically be present in the world Jesus knew, where his ministry unfolded, where Christianity was born was priceless. I find that the superficial impacts of visiting new places is always about the immediate experience. Understanding how that experience changes me comes later, oftentimes much later. There are generally just too many things going on during a trip to allow for any kind of meaningful thought processing. Navigating those deeper waters requires time, patience and quiet. Now that we are home I am starting to work through that, and am beginning to understand why this trip was so important. The rough edges are gradually being removed from so many thoughts. For a start, I am obviously reminded how truly thankful I am for the gift of freedom, the separation of church and state, and for the security of peace within our borders. But beyond the obvious, there, gratefully, and more importantly (to me), lies the story of the pilgrim road, our pilgrim road. Let me move onto that in my next post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Light in the darkness

Robin and I have recently returned from the Holy Land, a nice euphemism, but one that strikes wide of the mark for truth. I began composing a post on our travels and then realized I was growing angrier and angrier. Injustice strikes a resonating cord with me. Rather than continue I paused and retreated to a text that I often find comfort in, Thomas Merton's Dialogues in Silence. Over the past few mornings as the rain and mists swirled about I huddled in front of the fire and with tea vapors rising aloft I opened this dog-eared tome and found the peace I hungered for. He writes.

"In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense we have already arrived. We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and That is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in whom I have already arrived!"

"....only save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act with out reason, to move for movement's sake, to unsettle everything that You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen."

"...What was delivered to Moses on tablets of stone, as fruit of lightning and thunder, is now more thoroughly born in our souls as quietly as the breath of our own being."

" My hope is in what the eye has never seen. Therefore let me not trust in visible rewards. My hope is in what the human heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart. My hope is in what the hand has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can can grasp between my fingers, because Death will loosen my grasp and my vain hope will be gone."

" Father, I beg You to teach me to be a man of peace and to help bring peace to the world, to study here truth and non-violence, and to have the patience and courage to suffer for truth."

Thomas Merton, Dialogues in Silence.

Peace be with you....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To the Holy Land

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

There is not a day that goes by that Robin and I do not think of returning to the Camino, and to Santiago de Compostela. I feel our compass will always point to Spain, but there is one diversion that is also beckoning, and that leads to the Holy Land. As our pilgrim journey continues to unfold, Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have captured us. So, this weekend we are heading off to Israel to find our way to that church, built over the tomb where Jesus was buried. This is our first visit to the Holy Land so we have a host of other things to see and do that will fill the next couple of weeks. Happily (and thankfully), we will once again be doing what we seem to enjoy doing most, and that is simply being pilgrims in an ancient land. We have no well defined expectations, much the same as when we walked the Camino. We just feel this is a pilgrimage we need to make, and so we are off on the morning tide, so to speak. Blog updates to follow.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A promise to keep

I discovered, while walking the Camino, that pilgrims are exposed to many heightened emotions. They swirl about us as we inch along, always our companions on the journey. Long days spent walking through field, forest, and even along roadways, offer unique opportunities for reflecting on the many moods of pilgrim life (or simply on life off the Camino), and also on the grace of simply being alive and walking the Way. On the days when life is a bit more challenging, and our peace is more elusive, perhaps that is the time to open up an interior dialogue, and allow that voice, that is always trying to be heard, to actually be heard. This invitation begins a seemingly simple, but actually complex, activity to identify the barriers to our peace. In these instances we should be determined seekers for this peace, our peace, is abundant and waiting. However, when answers are not easily found, and focus eludes us, impatience predictably sets in, and the opportunity for spiritual growth, once again, is subsumed in the clamor and gravitational pull of daily life wherever we happen to be.

Patience is not a pervasive human trait. We are so geared to being accomplishers, problem solvers, masters of our own destiny, that being still is almost anathema to us. Yet, the first step to finding our peace is stillness. Being able to push away distractions (at least for some small part of the day) is an essential competancy we must develop and embrace. The more we give ourselves over to the silence of our own reflections the more likely it is that we will hear the inner voice (Spirit) that is there to guide us. The difficult journey to our own individual peace starts with making room in our hearts for the reconciliation of God's will with our own. Once this is done all is possible.

... But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. (Robert Frost)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pilgrims in the neighborhood?

Robin and I were out for a walk the other day when to our surprise we saw this stack of stones at a street corner. How many times have we seen such things along the Camino. They are a ubiquitous part of the Way. Pilgrims have a fascination with stacking stone upon stone as a way to mark their passing by a particular place. The process is helped along if others have left something for you to add onto, which is usually the case. Nevertheless, the stone cairn was a totally unexpected and very pleasant reminder of our trip down the Camino Frances. We snapped this photo and couldn't help but smile at how the Camino continues to remind us of the precious gift of those remarkable days walking across Spain.